Genre: J2 AU
Word Count: ~30,000 in five parts and epilogue.
Summary: Jensen knew that he wasn't an uptight person--he was just organized. Jared wasn't as irresponsible as Jensen thought he was--he just knew how to kick back and have a good time. For very different reasons, they each decide to take a cross-country road trip to the west coast. Because of some unexpected circumstances, they end up learning a little about themselves and a lot about each other.
Link to Masterpost
Jared awoke, suddenly freezing cold and blinking as bright morning sunlight assaulted his eyes.
“Don’t you have an 8 o’clock class?” his roommate asked as he tossed Jared’s heavy blankets back down on top of him.
“What time is it?” Jared asked, his face scrunching up at the taste in his mouth, the combination of beer and Jim Beam hanging around like some sort of ghost of parties past. He started to flip over to face the wall when Misha began kicking at the mattress near his head.
“It’s 8:15, lazy ass.”
Jared groaned, grabbing his sunglasses from the bedside table just as his feet hit the ground. A strategically placed empty beer bottle almost sent his feet flying out from beneath him. He snatched it up, chucking it half heartedly at Misha on general principle.
Misha deflected it easily with an empty pizza box they kept in their dorm room for that specific purpose. After rooming with Jared for nearly a semester he was well accustomed to Jared’s morning routine.
“Remind me again why I signed up for this class that takes place at the crack of dawn three days a week? It's torture.” Jared said as he moved aimlessly about their room, looking for the mostly clean pair of jeans he vaguely remembered shoving in a corner the night before.
“I seem to remember it having something to do with a set of green eyes and dirty blonde hair. A fine strapping young lad who had the misfortune to be standing right in front of you in line when you registered.” Misha spun in his desk chair to blink blearily at the computer screen.
“Shut up,” Jared responded.
“You asked,” Misha said with a shrug, only half paying attention.
“It was rhetorical.”
“Looks like that freshman comp class is finally paying off, check out that vocabulary.”
“Where’s my mouthwash?” Jared asked, ignoring Misha’s snide remark.
“You drank it on a dare three days ago. Use that vile tequila that Julie brought over the other day. It has to be good for something other than cleaning engines.”
Jared took a second to debate the relative merits of taking a few more minutes to actually brush his teeth over walking into the classroom reeking of tequila. He decided that he would just sit in the back of the class. He pulled the top off the bottle, swishing the alcohol around in his mouth while he looked for a cup to spit it. Coming up empty handed, he swallowed with a grimace.
“What are you doing up anyway?” Jared said, his mind just now starting to catch up.
“Huge paper due in two hours. Something about sophists and several other nonsensical Greek words.”
“Ouch. I’m off,” Jared said, stepping into a pair of flip-flops right inside the door.
“Jared,” said Misha with a nod to his feet. “You are aware that it’s December. In Massachusetts.”
“Dude, I can’t even feel my head right now, I’m not worried about my feet,” he responded as he headed out the door. He took two quick steps down the hall before spinning around, his feet sliding a little. Bursting into the dorm room again, he grabbed the notebook that Misha was holding out to him.
“I don’t know what all this is about. You could always skip the class, you know,” Misha said without looking up from his computer screen.
“No way. I’m just barely getting by with a C in the class, and well…it may or may not have something to do with a certain set of green eyes, and the strapping lad who’s attached to them.” Aiming a grin at Misha, he slammed the door and started down the hallway toward the stairs at a dead run.
Minutes later Jared skidded into the crowded classroom, his sandals squealing loudly on the polished floor.
“Good morning, Mr. Padalecki,” said the professor without looking up from the sheaf of papers she was holding in her hand. “How nice of you to join us today.”
“Sorry. There was a thing,” he mumbled lamely. Glancing around, he sighed when he saw that the only empty seat was front and center, but then brightened a little when he saw that it was next to Jensen.
Jared sneaked a look at Jensen as he walked by, admiring the graceful line of Jensen’s neck when he bowed his head over his notes, the way his light grey sweater stretched across his shoulders and the sinful way Jensen’s tongue flicked over his bottom lip, moistening it as his pen scratched across the paper. This crush was bad.
Jensen glanced up from his notebook for a second, rolling his eyes a little when Jared leveled what he hoped was a winning Padalecki smile in his direction. “What did I miss?” Jared whispered hoarsely, leaning toward Jensen. He moved back quickly when Jensen made a face and blinked his eyes as if they had begun to water. That’s right. He’d forgotten about the tequila.
“Let’s see,” the professor stood at the front of the classroom, adjusting her large cardigan sweater as her bangle bracelets clanged. She took a few steps toward Jared’s desk and went on in her formal clipped accent. “Today, I thought we would go over your compositions.” Rifling through the papers in her thin hand, she pulled Jared’s out and placed it on the desk in front of him. There was a glaring red D+ on the cover page. Jared’s stomach fell, and he had to resist the desire to ask her why she had bothered to grace him with the plus. Why not just leave it at a solid respectable D?
“I can honestly say, Jared,” the professor stated, looking over her half moon glasses at him, “that yours is one of the more interesting papers I have been given the opportunity to read in recent years. I am mostly in awe of your unique approach to the English language, your creative spelling, and your bold and original use of the semi-colon.”
Jared chanced a sideways glance toward Jensen, but looked away quickly when he saw the smirk on Jensen’s face.
“Now Jensen,” the professor spun around, handing him his paper. “Your grammar here is impeccable, you have a huge vocabulary in your arsenal.” Jensen’s smirk twisted into an expression that was downright smug. “You express your thoughts clearly and succinctly. But there’s no feeling in your writing. It is simply dry.”
It was now Jared’s turn to smirk, but the smile quickly faded from his face when he saw Jensen’s skin first grow pale before a slow red blush deepened the color on his cheeks.
“It’s crucial to remember,” the professor continued, now addressing the entire class, “that it is all well and good to describe the place that you have been, and the place that you are going. But sometimes, it is the journey in between the two that’s the most important part. Because it is in that journey that you live your life, and it is in that journey where inspiration exists.”
Jared slumped in his chair, not really listening as the teacher offered her critiques to the rest of the students. He rested his chin in his hand and stared blankly at the grade on his paper, wondering how he was going to bring it up with only a little more than a week left of the semester. If he couldn’t, there was going to be some serious hell to pay.
Jared hung back after class. He approached the professor, prepared to beg her for any opportunity to bring his grade up.
“I know what you are going to say, Jared,” the professor said, cutting him off before he could begin, “it’s not as if your writing isn’t good, because it definitely is, it’s descriptive and imaginative. However, I must mark you down for grammar. This is a freshman composition class, not a workshop in post-modern creative writing. Rules are rules. However, I am not above giving you a chance here. Let’s do this,” she continued, clasping her hands in front of her, “I will accept what you have turned in here as a rough draft. Work out the kinks, clean it up a bit and we’ll negotiate.”
“That’s fair enough,” Jared said, relief flooding through him. As he turned to leave, he almost ran bodily into Jensen, who was standing close behind him.
Jensen extended his hand, offering Jared a piece of gum. “Do the world a favor, Jared,” he said as he moved up to speak with the teacher.
Jared took the gum and nodded his thanks as he made his way toward the door. Lingering outside in the hall, he unabashedly eavesdropped on their conversation.
“You heard what I just said to Jared,” the professor said, “and I'm willing to offer the same sort of bargain to you. Turn it in after winter break, on the day of the exam.”
Jensen walked into the corridor, and Jared made a couple of quick steps to fall in stride with him as they exited the hall.
Rushing to stand in front of Jensen, Jared said, “Hey, what do you say we help each other out here? You’ve got the grammar covered and I’ve got a pretty good handle on the other stuff. We could pull each other out of the hole.”
Jensen shouldered past him and resumed his quick walk. “No, I don’t think so. I’ve got a lot of work to do before break.”
Jared broke into an easy trot to keep up with Jensen. “Listen, I could really use your help. If my grades fall any more then I’ll lose my scholarship. And if that happens, then I’ll be forced to do something drastic like take up work as a male stripper to pay tuition.” He paused when Jensen’s eyes drifted down along his chest, the corner of his bottom lip catching between two perfect rows of white teeth. Maybe there was hope for him after all. When Jensen’s eyes traveled back to meet his own, Jared took up where he’d left off. “Then the next thing you know, I’m falling asleep in class because of all of the late nights at the bar, and I’ll still flunk out. So I’ll go along, living the high life and then suddenly I’m forty years old and I can’t strip, because who wants to see an exotic dancer that looks more like Fred Astaire than anything, and I can’t get a job, because I’m only qualified to do lewd things to a pole. So now I’m on the street, and one day I go to a soup kitchen, because I’m hungry, and in order to get something to eat, I have to listen to this guy who is a leader of this religious cult, who whisks me off to some sort of compound in Uganda. Only the feds are after him because of tax evasion, and one day he hands us all a cup of kool-aid and says drink this. And all this happens because twenty years ago Jensen Ackles was too busy to lend a guy a hand.”
“Alright, alright,” said Jensen begrudgingly, stopping to grab a black leather binder from the front pocket of his backpack. “I’ll help you.” He began to shuffle through the pages of his organizer, muttering to himself as Jared looked on eagerly. “Tomorrow’s booked, let’s see. Friday… bio lab at three, dinner at six, shower at seven, phone call at seven thirty… how’s eight on Friday sound?” Jensen said finally, tapping his pen against his lower lip, and never before in his life had Jared wanted to be a pen so badly. Jensen wrote his address on a piece of paper and said, “Meet you there, alright?”
“It’s a date,” Jared said, impulsively leaning forward to place a peck on Jensen’s cheek.
“It’s not a date,” said Jensen gruffly. “It’s studying.” His fingers touched the spot where Jared’s lips had just been.
“A mere technicality,” Jared called over his shoulder as he turned and started the long walk back to his room. He was wondering what kind of person signed up for a lab at three in the afternoon on Fridays, wanted to meet to study on a Friday night, and had to actually schedule a shower.
“How’s this one look?” Jared asked as he buttoned up his dark red shirt.
“Hot,” Misha said, not bothering to look up from the physics book he was holding close to his face.
“That’s what you said about the last five.” Jared pointed out, undoing the buttons and tossing the shirt onto the growing stack on his bed.
“You can’t mess with perfection,” Misha fired back. “Since when do you worry about this sort of stuff anyway?”
“Since Jensen finally agreed to hang out with me. I’ve been trying for months.”
With a sigh, Misha lifted himself off of his bed and went to his small closet in the corner. Rifling through the hangers there, he pulled out a black dress shirt and threw it at Jared. “Try this,” he said, landing with a thud on his bed once more.
“Thanks, but this is going to be way too small for me.”
“And here I thought that a healthy disrespect for appropriate sized clothing was a cultural norm amongst your people,” Misha said, picking up his heavy textbook once more.
“How can you even read with all of that noise?” Jared asked, ignoring Misha’s last comment. The noise was building up to its typical Friday night earsplitting level in the hallway outside their room.
“I have no choice, I told what’s-her-name that I would help her study for the physics exam. I thought that I may as well crack open the book so I’d have half a chance of sounding like I know anything at all about what I was talking about.”
“What’s-her-name? You can’t remember her name.” It wasn’t a question.
“Sort of hoping that it'll come to me.”
“You’re a dog.”
“You are what you eat.”
“Jesus,” Jared said as he finished buttoning up Misha’s shirt and looked at himself in the mirror. Not half bad. “How do I look?” asked Jared yet again.
Misha finally looked up from his book again, his mouth forming an appreciative frown and his eyebrows creeping up toward his hairline. “Not bad, kiddo.”
“I see that we have a winner. I just hope that I won’t have to take any deep breaths,” Jared muttered as he grabbed his boots. “Have fun studying. Or whatever you want to call it,” he said, opening the door.
The scene in the hallway was building into something that Jared defined as barely controlled chaos. Almost everyone’s door was open, emitting various kinds of music that when combined formed a loud sort of drone, punctuated by co-eds’ shouts and screams. Jared didn’t blame them, only one more week to go before winter break, and everyone deserved to let off some steam. This was not an easy school to get into, and it really wasn’t an easy one to stay in. He passed a plastic tub in the common room filled with beer and ice - apparently the RA’s had decided to turn a blind eye on the festivities of this evening - and grabbed two bottles, tucking them between the fingers of his right hand. He thought about it for a minute, and grabbed two more before heading toward Jensen’s building.
After a cold trudge across campus, Jared walked into the Honor’s dormitory, feeling like he had just landed on a different planet. The place even smelled different. There wasn’t the odor of stale food and beer and dirty laundry, but rather something sort of clean. The halls were nearly empty. A girl carrying a stack of books looked at him suspiciously, eyeing the four bottles that he clasped in his fingers. Jared self-consciously tucked them into his deep jacket pockets with an awkward smile, and winced at the clanking sound that they made, the noise echoing down the hall. In Jared’s estimation, this was not what college was all about.
He took the stairs to the second floor two at a time, checking his watch before knocking on Jensen’s door. He was five minutes early. It was probably the first time in his life that had ever happened.
A muffled noise that Jared decided to interpret as permission to enter came from the other side of the door.
Jared entered and took a quick inventory of his surroundings. Somehow Jensen had scored a single room, or maybe they all were in this building. He’d never been here before. Either way, Jared thought he was one lucky bastard. Textbooks were stacked neatly on the shelf above the desk, the place where he and Misha proudly displayed their ever increasing and varied collection of whisky bottles in their own room. Jensen was sitting at the desk, his back turned slightly to Jared, looking out the window as he spoke in quite tones on his phone. There were curtains hanging at the window. They matched the comforter on the perfectly made bed, and the area rug. Of course they would.
There was no television, no gaming system, and no other electronic equipment that Jared found essential to his own day-to-day operation. Entirely missing were the piles of clothes, old take out bags, as well as boxes, bottles and generalized trash that Jared had begun to associate with his life in a college dorm room.
Jared emptied his coat pockets and tossed the jacket on the floor right inside the door. Since Jensen was sitting in the only chair in the room, Jared opted to lay down on the bed, crossing his legs as he placed the bottles of beer on the floor next to him. He listened in on Jensen’s half of the conversation.
“I can’t afford to fly out there. My folks want me to come home, so they refuse to pay for a ticket… I know that cuts into our time, but there’s not much I can do about it… I can’t wait to see you either… you too, bye.” Jensen clicked the phone closed, picked up the pencil beside his hand and marked something off in his organizer.
“Let me guess,” Jared said, “phone call done?”
Jensen spun in his chair with a scowl, slapped a hand against Jared’s feet and said, “No shoes on the bed.” He stood up, walking over to where Jared’s coat had been thrown and retrieved it to place it neatly on the back of his desk chair.
Jared sat up, reached between his feet for two beers and leveled a curious look at Jensen. “Want one?”
“I don’t really drink,” Jensen said with a wave of his hand.
“What? That’s almost unconstitutional.” When Jensen shook his head, Jared tried a different tactic. “Come on, I carried these all the way here, don’t make me carry them back.”
“Alright, just one, then we’ll get to work.” Jensen grabbed the offered bottle, took a small sip and grimaced. He sat down on the opposite end of the bed.
“I know,” Jared said after draining half the bottle with one long pull. “Not the best, but at least it was free, well, sort of stolen actually, but free enough.” With another sip he finished the first, and started on the second.
“Slow down, cowboy,” grinned Jensen as he watched Jared’s throat work. His plump lower lip caught for a moment between his teeth. It was a sort of unconscious habit that Jared was really beginning to adore. “So you’re here on a scholarship?” Jensen asked after a bit.
“Yeah, or I wouldn’t be here at all,” Jared said, setting the bottle on the floor. “It would have been state all the way if I was lucky. There’s not a lot of money in the family. You?”
“Fourth generation to come here. We’re one of those families. Endowments every year paving the way for the next generation of Ackles’ to attend. It would be nice to know whether or not I could have made it here on my own, but…” Jensen left the thought unfinished.
“You would have made it, man. Don’t let a stupid English assignment get you down. Besides, it brought you to me,” Jared teased.
Jensen took another swig, pursed his lips for a moment before speaking. “You’re right. About the English paper anyway,” he added quickly. “Speaking of which, did you even bring your notebook?” Jensen asked, looking around his room.
“I have the paper right here.” Jared shifted and took the folded pile of papers out of the back pocket of his jeans. As he unfolded them, a stray gum wrapper fluttered to the floor. Jensen quickly snatched it up and threw it into the trashcan beside the desk. “Neat freak, huh?” Jared asked, a smile forming on his lips.
“Not really. I just have to stay organized.”
“I can never get organized.”
“I can tell,” Jensen said, but there was a fond tone to his voice. “Finish your beer, and we’ll head out to the library.”
“The library? I thought we'd hang out here,” Jared said.
“Too many distractions,” Jensen responded, and Jared wondered what on earth could distract him here. A monk had more distractions in a monastery than Jensen did in this room.
“Is the library even open on the weekends?”
Jensen merely gave Jared a long-suffering look and got up, throwing Jared’s coat into his lap and putting his own on. “Are you ready?”
“Sure thing, boss,” Jared said, downing the rest of his beer. He saw Jensen’s half-full bottle sitting on the desk and shrugged, finishing that one off as well. He didn’t want to leave behind a mess, after all.
Jared’s phone made a noise as the two men were making their way across the nearly empty campus. “Sorry,” Jared muttered as he grabbed his phone from his back pocket. It was a message from Chad. He’d sent him a picture of a man who looked like he should be modeling Calvin Klein underwear. Beneath the photo Chad had written, ‘your dry streak’s about end.’ Jared chuckled softly and snapped the phone closed.
“What’s that?” Jensen asked, hunching his shoulders against the cold wind that was whipping along the quad.
“Just a friend of mine from high school. He’s going to college in California, where it’s seventy, sunny and beautiful right now. Lucky son of a bitch.”
“I hear you,” Jensen said as they approached the wide door to the library. A blast of warm air greeted them as they walked into the lobby.
A thought occurred to Jared. “Hey, Jensen, aren’t you supposed to be quiet in a library?”
“You’ve never been in here before,” Jensen said, rolling his eyes. When Jared just looked away, embarrassed, Jensen continued. “There’s a group study hall on the top floor. They have tables and couches and chairs there.”
They passed the circulation desk, and a woman behind the counter looked up, “Hi, Jensen,” she said tiredly. Jensen gave her a wave.
A girl pushing a heavy cart of books to be re-shelved greeted Jensen as they walked toward the stairs, and Jensen offered a grin in return.
“Spend a lot of time, here I see,” Jared said. “I must admit that this is the first time I have graced these hallowed halls.”
“And you wonder why you’re about to lose your scholarship,” Jensen shot back.
Arriving on the seventh floor and panting slightly from the climb, Jensen led them to a table near the back of the open room. The only other inhabitant was a kid lying on a couch, snoring softly with a book propped on his chest.
Jensen sat down at the table, snatching a binder out of his backpack. Jared considered sitting next to him, but then decided that might be weird and took the opposite chair instead.
“Give me your paper, we’ll look each other’s over and go from there.” Jensen said, sliding his own across the polished wooden table.
“Got a pen?” Jared asked before glancing down at Jensen’s composition. He nearly choked when he saw the grade. “You got a ‘B’?” he said in a harsh whisper, “you were freaking out over that? If that teacher ever gave me one of those I would bow down and worship the ground she walked on. Literally.”
“What? I don’t get ‘B’s. Ever. It’s unacceptable,” Jensen said, effectively cutting off their conversation.
Jared sighed and began to skim quickly through Jensen’s paper. As far as a research paper on literature went it wasn’t so bad, if a little mechanical, and rather devoid of personal opinion. He finished quickly, and sat back to stare at Jensen. For some reason, he felt more nervous knowing Jensen was reading his work than when he had turned it in to the professor.
Jensen chewed on a pen cap as his eyes worked across Jared’s paper, every once in a while making a note or scratching something out. Feeling Jared’s eyes on him, Jensen finally looked up, his expression a little anxious and questioning. “What do you think?” Jensen nodded toward the paper in Jared’s hands.
“Well, it is a little dry,” Jared said. “You must remember that it’s not about where you’re going, but the journey there,” he did his best impression of their professor’s New England accent. “But really, be a little more assertive, show your opinion more and I think you’re golden.”
“Thanks,” Jensen said. He suddenly stood up and moved around the table to take a seat next to Jared. That simple act had Jared’s heart moving into his throat in a way that he had not expected. Jensen leaned in close, shoulders bumping as he bent over Jared’s paper. Jesus, he smell wonderful. “This paper is good, Jared. You have a very… original approach. I think the form sucks, and the grammar is for shit, but there’s something here we can work with.” He pointed to the first paragraph with the tip of his pen, “first off you don’t really have a thesis statement here. That should be stated clearly in the first paragraph, usually in the last sentence. This paragraph is sort of all over the place.”
“Listen, Jensen, let’s just do something fun,” Jared said, cutting him off. “I mean, it’s Friday night, we’re two young guys, we shouldn’t be holed up in this place going over the finer points of a five paragraph essay.”
“Yeah, but we’re also two young guys whose GPA is in danger over those finer points. Besides, I have a schedule to keep,” Jensen pointed out.
“I’ve noticed. Just come on.” Jared stood up, grabbing their coats and taking Jensen by the elbow. He led them to a door in the corner of the room.
“We’re not supposed to go there,” Jensen said in a rough whisper, as if the room were full of curious onlookers instead of one guy asleep on a couch. “Look at the sign, it says ‘authorized personnel only’!”
“You know what I say about that? You pay tuition, I pay tuition, that is all the authorization we need.” With a quick look around, because it never did hurt to be cautious, Jared opened the door to reveal a concrete hallway with a stairwell at the end. He took a step in, and when Jensen didn’t follow him, reached out to grab his hand and pull him along.
The stairs brought them to a steel door that opened up to the roof of the building. Jared carefully placed Jensen’s backpack against the doorjamb to prevent getting locked out. A light snow had started to fall while they were working, and Jared made his way to the edge across the slippery roof, leaning far over the short wall there.
“Dude!” Jared said with a huge grin, “I should have come to this library more often. Or at all.” He turned to notice Jensen standing a few feet away, his arms crossed tightly around his chest against the cold. “Come check it out, the view is awesome from up here!”
“I’m not too big on heights.” Jensen looked away, embarrassed.
Jared slid slightly in the slushy snow when he walked over to Jensen. Putting an arm around his shoulders, he began to guide him slowly toward the low wall. “There’s nothing to be afraid of, I’m right here, you big wuss,” Jared teased good-naturedly. “You really need to see this.”
The campus spread out beneath them, the warm golden glow shining from the streetlights a contrast to the white layer of newly fallen snow. From this viewpoint, everything seemed quieter than usual, more peaceful. Jensen was shaking a little under Jared’s arm, from the cold or from fear, Jared wasn’t sure, and he tightened his grasp, pulling Jensen snugly to him.
They stood like that for long moments in comfortable silence, until Jensen finally cleared his throat and pulled away. “So, what are you studying?” Jensen asked, taking a few small steps away from the edge.
“I don’t know,” Jared said, feeling a little colder now that Jensen had put some space between them. “Right now I’m undeclared. I’d thought about philosophy, that’s what my roommate Misha is majoring in, but I cracked open one his books one time and only understood about every other word, so I nixed that. My folks want me to study something logical like business, but that’s just boring and I can’t see myself spending the rest of my life in a suit. I wanted to study astronomy, but I suck at math, same goes for architecture. So maybe English?” Jared paused when Jensen raised an eyebrow at him. “But what would I do with a BA in English?”
“You could always write,” Jensen offered.
“Yeah, you’ve seen how well that turns out.” Jared’s heart melted a little when Jensen grinned at him. “How about you?”
“Pre-law,” Jensen answered, his nose wrinkling. “I’m going to be one of those people who spends the rest of their life in a suit. In the old family tradition.”
“But what do you want to do?”
Jensen stared at him for a long moment, his eyes squinted slightly and his head cocked a little to the side. “Honestly, no one has ever asked me that before.” Jensen said after a while, looking down and scuffing his boot in the snow, sending a shower of white crystals in front of him. “Do you really want to know?”
“Of course,” Jared said, sitting on the low wall behind him.
“I really want to study agriculture.” He glanced up quickly to gauge Jared’s reaction. When there was no laughter from him, Jensen continued. “You’ll think this is ridiculous, like something out of ‘Death of a Salesman’ or whatever, but I’d just really like to have a place somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, a lot of land and a little house in the middle. A few horses, a few herds, a couple thousand acres, and just space to move and room to breath, you know? Somewhere you can see the sky during the day without buildings blocking it. Somewhere you can see stars at night.”
“That sounds wonderful. The city… it just sort of creeps into you. It’s always reminding me in little ways that I am really far away from home.” Jared said quietly. This frigid crowded city was a far cry from the smaller town that he was raised in. It was rushed, full of strangers and there never seemed to be enough time. Time to think, time to be, time enough to waste just a little bit of it.
“Let’s go in,” Jensen said suddenly. “It’s cold as hell out here and we’ve still got some work to do.”
Jared pushed away from the wall, his feet slipping out from beneath him on the snowy rooftop. His arms wheeled madly for a moment as he came close to falling backward over the wall. Then Jensen was there, pulling him forward, the two of them slipping and hitting the rooftop in a pile of tangled arms and legs, Jensen landed heavily on top of Jared, knocking the wind out of his lungs.
Panting for a moment, Jared stared up at Jensen as he tried to calm his shaking limbs and pounding heart. Jensen’s eyes were wide and panicked, his breath coming in small white clouds as he tried to calm himself down. Jensen closed his eyes for a second, taking in a deep breath and licking his lips, and Jared couldn't resist. He leaned up, placed his lips against Jensen’s, the warmth of Jensen’s mouth contrasting brilliantly with the cold air whipping around them.
Jensen went rigid for a moment, and then stood up quickly, brushing himself off as he slipped and slid toward the door. “You planned that, you dick,” he said accusingly, his back resolutely turned toward Jared.
“I did not!” Jared said in amazement. Admittedly, he was not above a little subterfuge to get to know Jensen a bit better, but this was taking things a step too far. “If you think that I would risk falling off of a seven storey building just to get a kiss out of you, then you have a rather inflated sense of yourself.” He stood up and stared at Jensen’s back with his hands on his hips.
“Are you coming?” Jensen said as he threw open the door. “Because right now, I am not above locking your ass out here.”
Jared trotted over to the door. “Listen, sorry. But I’m telling you the truth, and…thanks for not letting me fall.”
“I should have. I’ll see you in class, Jared.” Jensen said, resolutely heading down the hallway without another glance backward.
When Jared reached the main doors of the library, he looked to the right, spotting Jensen as he made his way back to his room, his head bowed and his hands shoved deeply into the pockets of his dark leather coat. Jared considered going after him before deciding that he had probably done more than enough damage for one night. With a sigh, he headed back to his building.
The common room was easily twice as loud as it had been before. Jared spied two of the RA’s sitting in a corner with a bottle of vodka between them. They’d obviously realized that there was no chance of getting a handle on the situation, and instead decided to join in. He passed by the tub of beer, and nabbed three more before heading to his room. As he approached the door, he saw the shirt hanging on the doorknob. It was the universal symbol for ‘walk in here right now and Misha will kick your ass six ways from Sunday.’
Jared slid along the wall until he was seated on the floor, resigning to wait it out until Misha emerged. Then he would grab that bottle of tequila and get well and truly drunk, sleep until Monday, and start the vicious cycle all over again.
He pulled out his phone, and quickly punched in some numbers.
“This is Chad’s House of Ill Repute, Chad speaking,” answered an annoyingly chipper voice.
“Hey,” Jared said, sounding miserable.
“Just the man I wanted to talk to! Did you get the photo I sent you?”
“Hey, what’s going on? You sound like someone just ran you over and then kidnapped your dog,” Chad observed.
“I wish. Sorry, just a bad night,” Jared said, trying to bring himself out of his funk.
“I told you that you should have come to school out here. It’s the land of milk, honey and cold beverages poolside, and more gorgeous women than you can shake a stick at… and men too.” Chad added as an afterthought. Jared heard him slurping some sort of drink through a straw on the other end of the phone. It sounded like it had an umbrella in it. The bastard.
“But let’s get down to brass tacks here," Chad said, "remember that photo I sent you?”
“You mean the one with the guy who looks like he belongs on the cover of a GQ magazine?” Jared asked.
“Bingo. Now here’s the kicker… he’s a sure thing.”
“What?” Jared asked. “A sure thing? Like, no strings attached, no questions asked, that kind of sure thing?”
“Again, bingo. I’ve told him all about you, and he really wants to meet you, even after I showed him a photo. You just have to make it out here to California by Christmas day, because the day after that he is shipping out to some South American country to try to not get malaria or something. I told you, your dry streak is coming to an end. And you have me to thank for it, your very own personal eHarmony.”
“But I have almost no money, and my next student loan doesn’t kick in until January.”
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Chad said sagely.
“But who really travels three thousand miles for a weekend of torrid self indulgence?” Jared asked, his mind already spinning trying to reconcile his account balance and gas mileage, and beer, one must never forget the beer.
“You’ve done worse for less.”
“True.” Jared couldn’t really argue with that. “I’ll be there,” he said impulsively.
“That’s my boy. I’ll keep the home fires burning for you.”
Ten minutes later, Jared found himself at the board outside the student union, skimming the ride sharing ads. He found one that was going to California, tore off the tab at the bottom, and decided that his day was definitely starting to get better.